Jubilee Museum to move to Catholic Foundation building

Jubilee Museum to move to Catholic Foundation building
By Tim Puet
Catholic Times Reporter

The Jubilee Museum, which houses the nation’s largest collection of diversified Catholic artwork, will be moving in 2021 from its original location at the former Holy Family School in Columbus’ Franklinton neighborhood to the building housing The Catholic Foundation at 257 E. Broad St. in downtown Columbus, across from St. Joseph Cathedral.

“We’re hoping the move can be completed by Easter,” said museum director Shawn Kenney. “The museum will take up most of the foundation building’s first floor. Remodeling is set to start in the first week of January.”

The building is best known as the location of the original Wendy’s restaurant. It was built in the 1940s to house the Bill Kay Oldsmobile dealership and became Tommy Henrich’s Steak House from 1961 to 1968. Businessman Len Immke took over the space in 1969 and was using it to prepare cars for his Buick dealership nearby when he allowed his friend, Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas, to take over the space for the first of Wendy’s nearly 7,000 locations worldwide.

“We’re very excited about the opportunity to be the museum’s new home,” said Loren Brown, the Foundation’s president and chief executive officer, who also said work needs to be completed on an agreement between the foundation and the Diocese of Columbus concerning use of the proposed museum space.

“The relocation will unite the Catholic history represented by the museum’s holdings with the work the Foundation is doing to help ensure the future of the Catholic Church in central and southern Ohio through planned giving and charitable fund management,” he said.

“It will give the faithful a chance to see that history and combine it with the opportunity to visit related sites on East Broad Street such as the Cathedral, the Washington Gladden Social Justice Park, and the Columbus Museum of Art, plus nearby attractions in the city’s Discovery District including the Columbus College of Art and Design, the Columbus Metropolitan Library and Topiary Park.”

Brown said having all the museum’s exhibits on one floor will make them well-suited for accessibility to the disabled. The current museum is not accessible and has exhibits spread over two floors.

The exhibits will cover about 4,100 square feet in the foundation building. Work on converting the site will be in charge of David Meleca of the Moody Nolan architectural firm. Meleca, while operating his own firm, also led the makeover that occurred when the Foundation took over the Wendy’s site. He also is noted for his church architecture in the diocese and nationwide. He was the architect for Westerville St. Paul Church, which is the largest church building in the Diocese, and for renovation of several diocesan churches.

The idea to move the museum to the Foundation’s building stems from a visit Brown made in 2018 to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico’s museum, which is located in an adobe building dating to the 1830s. The Archdiocese and the Diocese of Columbus have a historical connection because the Archdiocese’s first bishop, Jean-Baptiste Lamy, was the first resident pastor of Danville St. Luke and Newark St. Vincent de Paul churches before being sent to New Mexico by Pope Pius IX in 1850.

“The Santa Fe museum is much smaller than the Jubilee Museum, but it’s very well-done when it comes to the quality of its items and the way they’re displayed,” Brown said. “Scott Hartman of the Foundation is on the museum’s board of directors. I told him it would be great to experience something like that here, and he brought it up to the board this summer.”

“The Foundation offered the space, and the board quickly accepted,” Kenney said. “We realized that this was quite an offer and that it would fulfill all our needs, not just by allowing us to display items better but by providing adequate space for offices, storage and rest rooms. Being able to show items properly will enable us to focus on being a museum.”

The relocation will require Kenney and other museum staff members to decide what to keep and what to discard. “We have five full pipe organs and parts for several others,” Kenney said. “We’re only going to take one organ to the new museum. We also have 14,000 books, about 600 Nativity sets, and plenty of small statues, prints, and other items people have generously donated over the years.”

There won’t be room for many of those items in the new location, so like many others who have to downsize, Kenney is planning the equivalent of a garage sale. “We’ll be making items available to the public very soon,” he said.

Kenney, who began volunteering at the museum 16 years ago, joined its staff in 2013 and has been director since 2016, said no price tags would be placed on items the museum makes available, “but we would expect a fair donation to be made.”

He said artifacts of note that will be going to the new museum site include a chalice with an amethyst worn by Mary Queen of Scots; the federal land grant given to Ohio’s pioneer Catholic family, the Dittoe family of Somerset, and signed by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison; a roomful of dolls dressed in the habits of various congregations of religious sisters; about 300 first-class relics of saints; and many oil paintings, vestments, and altars.

The museum will continue to show items from its collection on a rotating basis and to house traveling exhibits. One of its most popular exhibits was a replica of the Vatican made of 500,000 Lego blocks put together by Father Bob Simon of eastern Pennsylvania and housed at the museum from June to October in 2018.

“We’re planning a Lego exhibit centered on a church being built in her dining room by Andrea Plymale, a central Ohio resident, and including an organ, tower and candles,” Kenney said.  “We’re also considering a Lego workshop which would offer people a chance to build Lego models of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, St. Peter’s Basilica or other famous Catholic sites and to take part in a competition.”

He also said that starting on Nov. 29, the First Sunday of Advent, the museum would display a different Nativity set in its Facebook page during each day of the Advent season.

Since the late 1970s, the Holy Family School building has housed a soup kitchen founded by the late Msgr. Francis Schweitzer, Holy Family Church’s pastor from 1970 to 1996. Because of the coronavirus, the kitchen’s operations have shifted to Holy Family’s parish center.

Although the museum is closed, Kenney said donations are needed to cover ongoing expenses and the cost of the move. They may be sent to Jubilee Museum, P.O. Box 164234, Columbus, OH 43216 or made online at www.jubileemuseum.org.